Burno gets Northern Illinois off to promising start

  • Rashon Burno, who played at DePaul and was an assistant at Arizona State and Florida, is the new men's basketball coach at Northern Illinois.

    Rashon Burno, who played at DePaul and was an assistant at Arizona State and Florida, is the new men's basketball coach at Northern Illinois. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 11/10/2021 9:19 PM

Before the season opened, Northern Illinois was widely rated as the worst men's basketball team in the Mid-American Conference.

In 2020-21, the Huskies went 3-16 (2-12 in the MAC) and the poor showing ended Mark Montgomery's 10-year run as head coach.

 

Rashon Burno took over for Montgomery after spending the last five seasons as associate head coach at Arizona State. He was also an assistant at Florida under current Bulls coach Billy Donovan.

Before moving into coaching, Burno was a guard for DePaul from 1998-2002.

Getting the NIU program turned around figures to take some time, but Burno is off to a great start. In Tuesday night's season opener, the Huskies traveled to Washington and pulled off a 71-64 upset.

"It feels good," Burno told reporters after the game. "I'm super excited for the players. I tell my guys that this is about the team. We wanted to make this a team game. (Washington) had to beat us as a better team."

The tough early season schedule continues with a game at Indiana Friday night, but Northern Illinois is already heading in the right direction.

Top returnees:

Trendon Hankerson, guard; Zool Kueth, forward; Anthony Crump, guard.

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Hankerson, a senior from Michigan, is the Huskies' leading returning scorer. He led NIU with 28 points vs. Washington.

New faces:

Keshawn Williams, guard (transfer, Tulsa); Darweshi Hunter, guard (transfer, Weber State).

Both newcomers started vs. Washington and the duo combined to score 9 points.

Key losses:

Tyler Cochran, guard; Darius Beane, guard.

NIU's second-leading scorer (15.5 points per game) last season, Cochran transferred to Ball State.

Worth noting:

New assistant coach Steve Christiansen is back at Northern Illinois after spending the last 17 seasons as the head coach at Triton College in River Grove, where he won over 400 games as well as the 2018 NJCAA Division II national championship.

Christiansen, a Hinckley native, was NIU's director of basketball operations from 2001-04.

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